Thursday, March 3, 2016
Neanderthals collected manganese dioxide to make fire
Manganese dioxide is abundant in nature, and owing to their colour, these oxides have been used as pigments since the Stone Age. Some of the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, for example, were produced with manganese-based pigments. In a series of compositional analyses, scientists from Leiden University and Delft University of Technology conclude that Neanderthals at Pech-de-l'Azé I in South Western France had a strikingly different use for this mineral 50,000 years ago.
During excavations at several Neanderthal sites in France large numbers of small black 'blocs' where found. The usual interpretation is that these chunks of 'manganese oxides' were used for their colouring properties in body decoration, potentially even for symbolic expression. However Neanderthals habitually used fire and if they needed black material for decoration, soot and charcoal were readily available, whereas manganese oxides would have necessitated a considerably higher investment in both time and energy to obtain.
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